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How to Strap on Your Banjo

You've probably already discovered that banjos can be heavy. Even if you have a more lightweight, open-back banjo, the distribution of weight on your banjo may very well be uneven, with much of the mass at the peghead concentrated where the four tuning pegs are located.

Take a moment and sit in a chair with your banjo in a playing position, with the pot of the banjo resting on your legs and the neck extending to your left at about a 45-degree angle. Hold the pot of the banjo against your body, with just a slight angle so you can more easily see the banjo fingerboard and head.

If you remove your left hand as a support, does the neck move downward? If so, start using a strap even when sitting. You need the left hand free to fret chords, not to support the weight of the banjo neck.

Find a real banjo strap — not a guitar strap — to use on your instrument. Both kinds of straps look pretty much the same except for what's at either end. Most banjo straps have hooks, ties, or screws at both ends that you use to attach the strap to the banjo pot.

A guitar strap more often has just holes punched into the leather or plastic at either end and nothing else, providing no way to easily attach it to the banjo.

Getting used to holding the banjo and working with the strap is a bit like breaking in a brand new pair of shoes — it takes a bit of time, but soon enough everything fits like a glove. The following sections provide all you need to know to fit the strap on the banjo and the banjo on you.

Attach the banjo strap

Some inexpensive banjos have hooks on the banjo body that are designed to hold a strap. However, these hooks usually aren't located in a position that provides the most comfortable support. Many players attach the strap to brackets located underneath the neck and the tailpiece of the banjo, as shown in the figure.

This position seems to provide a good deal of support and control, but you want to experiment by using different strap lengths and brackets to see what feels right to you.

For a comfortable fit, try attaching the strap below the neck and the tailpiece. [Credit: Photograp
Credit: Photograph by Anne Hamersky
For a comfortable fit, try attaching the strap below the neck and the tailpiece.

If you attach the strap to the banjo in this way, you shouldn't have to remove it when you need to put the banjo away in its case. Try wrapping the strap around the banjo pot, making sure that the top of your case still closes easily (see the figure).

Getting the strap out of the way when it’s time to put the banjo in its case. [Credit: Photog
Credit: Photograph by Anne Hamersky
Getting the strap out of the way when it’s time to put the banjo in its case.

Fit the Banjo strap

Although some players wear the strap across the right shoulder, most players adjust the length of the strap so that it wraps over the left shoulder, around the back, and underneath the right arm. You can see both options in this figure.

image2.jpg

As you fit the strap to the banjo, you need to properly adjust its length. The length of your strap determines the vertical placement of the banjo in relation to your body. Although you won't find any hard-and-fast rules, you might like to have just enough length to the strap so that when you sit down you can divide the weight of the banjo between your shoulder and your knees.

After you've found a strap position that seems to work when sitting, try standing up with the banjo to see how the banjo feels in relation to your hands. You need to use the same strap length for both sitting and standing, so experiment to find a strap fit that works well for both situations.

Two different ways to wear a banjo strap. [Credit: Photographs by Anne Hamersky]
Credit: Photographs by Anne Hamersky
Two different ways to wear a banjo strap.

Making three or four adjustments as you try to find the right strap position for your banjo isn't unusual. You might have to take the strap off the banjo each time to adjust its length until you find what feels just right. This is a minor hassle, but after the strap is set, you won't have to worry about it anymore and you'll be better able to find comfortable hand positions for playing.

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